Devlog #3: Why Unity (and other early decisions)?

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In the previous post, I talked about how I learned about the industry, diving into the community with GDC talks, YouTubers, and reading up on the origin stories of some of my favourite studios. I also discussed my introduction to the business of gaming and my first iteration of the game design document.

After orienting myself and establishing what I wanted to do it was time to make some key decisions, chief among them was what game engine to use for development.

I went down the rabbit hole of trying to compare all the various options (Unity, Unreal Engine, Godot, RPG Maker, and more…) At first, I thought I might like to do the programming myself and use it as a learning opportunity; but for expediency and practical reasons decided against it. It would likely take me years to gain competence in any of the major programming languages and engines and I was better off focusing on the business side of things anyway.

Ultimately, I decided to use our reference games as a comparison, if Unity was good enough for Shadowrun and Disco Elysium then it was probably the right decision for my studio.

With that out of the way I had to set about hiring the right talent to make my game idea a reality. As I mentioned before, I don’t have any of the traditional hard-skills in game development, I’m not a programmer, artist, designer, or professional writer, so I knew that to be successful I had to hire the right talent, give them the tools they needed to be successful, and provide the guidance, time, and money they needed to do the work. 

Hiring people proved challenging initially, leveraging my experience in HR and the game design document I’d drafted previously I started looking for freelancers who had the skills I needed and might be interested in the project. After talking to several people across multiple recruitment channels (Fiverr, Artstation, Facebook, Indeed, and others…) I managed to find a programmer, writer, and concept artist, enough to get started.

As for money, it was important to me to pay everyone fairly from the start, no grandiose notions of making everyone millionaires from some far off “rev-share”. What little knowledge I had of the industry and interaction I’d had in the community taught me that “idea guys” like me were all too common, usually all flash and no substance; and that the community had a sixth sense about such things.

If I was going to make it, I knew it would be by being professional, offering real work opportunities, managing the scope of the project, and focusing on getting the funding I needed to make it happen. 

As I mentioned I had saved some money, enough to get started, but I knew it wouldn’t be enough. We’ll talk more about funding in the next post, but for now I had learned it was important to get to the prototype stage. Most investors want to see something playable before making an investment decision, and if we had to go the crowdfunding route, we’d have an uphill battle being a new studio. So I thought being further along in development and having a playable demo would earn us some credibility with both investors and the general public, and hopefully I had enough money at least for a prototype if I managed it properly.